Live Long and Crowdfund
Fans keep 'Star Trek' alive with own hard-earned cash
“Star Trek” is going where no franchise has gone before — to crowdfunding sites.
As trekkies and trekkers alike prepare for next summer’s “Star Trek Beyond,” the third film in Paramount Pictures rebooted series, other groups are setting their targeting sensors on different enterprises — an independent Trek film and an ongoing series.
Technology is giving audiences far more control than ever over beloved properties. And they’re making the most of it. Will fans of other shows follow suit?
The indie film in question is called "Axanar," created and produced by longtime Trek contributor Alec Peters.
In 2013, Peters played Garth of Izar in the fan series "Star Trek Phase II." Garth appeared in one episode of the original "Star Trek" series in the 1960s. The episode alludes to Garth leading the heroic Federation forces to victory at the crucial Battle of Axanar, though the writers at the time didn’t share many other details.
So Peters and a group of filmmakers who had worked on the Blu-ray editions of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," set out to flesh out Garth’s backstory.
“We’re making the 'Star Trek' that we all want to see,” Peters told a crowd at the San Diego Comic-Con.
The team’s goal is to have the full film ready in time for Trek’s 50th anniversary next September.
And, judging from fans’ response, Peters is correct. An initial Kickstarter campaign netted more than $100,000, and led to a second initiative, which raised more than $600,000. It also sparked a competition among the crowdfunding sites to house the second. The campaign has since moved to Indiegogo, where it has raised an additional $525,000. All told, producers are hoping to bring in more than $1.3 million to bring the four-act film to life.
While that may seem steep for what essentially is fan fiction, the team working on the project is treating it like an independent film. The production values are top-notch, and a number of Trek alumni — from J.G. Hertzler (Martok), Tony Todd (Kurn) and Gary Graham (Soval) — are returning to the franchise, albeit in new roles.
The team’s goal is to have the full film ready in time for Trek’s 50th anniversary next September. Once complete, the producers will give donors Blu-rays or access to digital downloads. The video won’t be available for a regular purchase because no one other than Paramount, which owns the movie rights, or CBS Television, which owns the TV rights, can make money from the franchise.
Another example of "Trek"-related fan fiction comes from David A. Goodman. He's the author behind "The Autobiography of James T. Kirk: The Story of Starfleet's Greatest Captain," in bookstores now. The book details the history behind the character made famous by William Shatner starting in the mid-1960s.
On the television front, DVDs and Blu-rays of the pilot episode of "Star Trek: Renegades" started shipping earlier this month. Like "Axanar," this crowd-funded endeavor brings former Trek actors together to tell an all-new story.
The key difference between the two is that where "Axanar" goes back to tell an untold tale in Trek‘s past, "Renegades" moves forward after the ill-fated starship Voyager returned to Earth. And like "Axanar," the show features some with some familiar actors, including Hertzler, Graham and Walter Koenig, who is reprising his role of Pavel Chekov, now a Starfleet admiral.
"Renegades" also had a successful crowdfunding campaign, taking in more than $130,000 over a month. That will enable future episodes, with a goal of producing as many as 12 episodes a year. So expect more crowdfunding initiatives to pop up faster than Tribbles multiply.